I just now learned one of my heroes passed yesterday... Christopher Hitchens, dead at 62. From the link:
But if one needed any proof of Hitchens’ impact and far-reaching respect, the Atlantic’s Nicholas Jackson has it: The New York Times changed its front page well into the night to put Hitchens’ obituary on it.
“That is, the most influential newspaper in the world has put its work and printing process on hold to make room on the front page for the obituary of a single man. If that isn't a testament to his work, I don't know what is.”
I'll remember Mr. Hitchens for the innumerable times I was thankful to the man for his immaculate prose that both entertained and enlightened. I have way too many favorite pieces of his to name just one, but this will do as an example. From "Hitch 22," his recent memoir:
“Care to meet the new Leader?” Who could refuse?
Within moments, Margaret Thatcher and I were face to face. Within moments, too, I had turned away and was showing her my buttocks. I suppose that I must give some sort of explanation for this. Almost as soon as we shook hands on immediate introduction, I felt that she knew my name and had perhaps connected it to the socialist weekly that had recently called her rather sexy. While she struggled adorably with this moment of pretty confusion, I felt obliged to seek controversy and picked a fight with her on a detail of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe policy.
She took me up on it. I was (as it chances) right on the small point of fact, and she was wrong. But she maintained her wrongness with such adamantine strength that I eventually conceded the point and even bowed slightly to emphasize my acknowledgment.
“No,” she said. “Bow lower!” Smiling agreeably, I bent forward a bit farther. “No, no,” she trilled. “Much lower!” By this time, a little group of interested bystanders was gathering. I again bent forward, this time much more self-consciously. Stepping around behind me, she unmasked her batteries and smote me on the rear with the parliamentary order-paper that she had been rolling into a cylinder behind her back. I regained the vertical with some awkwardness. As she walked away, she looked back over her shoulder and gave an almost imperceptibly slight roll of the hip while mouthing the words: “Naughty boy!”
I had and have eyewitnesses to this. At the time, though, I hardly believed it myself. It is only from a later perspective, looking back on the manner in which she slaughtered and cowed all the former male leadership of her party and replaced them with pliant tools, that I appreciate the premonitory glimpse—of what someone in another context once called “the smack of firm government”—that I had been afforded.
Even at the time, as I left that party, I knew I had met someone rather impressive. And the worst of “Thatcherism,” as I was beginning by degrees to discover, was the rodent slowly stirring in my viscera: the uneasy but unbanishable feeling that on some essential matters she might be right.
RIP, Hitch. Thank you.